Saddam Hussein served as the leader of Iraq from the mid-1970s until the early 2000s.
In August of 1990, he invaded Kuwait and set off the Persian Gulf War. (Years later, when asked why he invaded Kuwait, one of his answers was: “When I get something into my head I act. That’s just the way I am.”)
In early 1991, the a U.S.-led allied coalition attacked Iraq, mainly from the air (Operation Desert Storm). By late February, the Iraqis were finally driven out of Kuwait.
Saddam Hussein was in the U.S. news enough in the early 1990s that the name Saddam appeared in the U.S. baby name data for three years in a row:
1992: 5 baby boys named Saddam
1991: 10 baby boys named Saddam
1990: 15 baby boys named Saddam [debut]
6 born in California
The name Saddam means “one who confronts” in Arabic. In 2007, The Economist specified that the “ungainly” name was “a conjugate of the Arabic words for “shock” and “collision.””
Saddam Hussein’s full name at birth was Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti. “Hussein” was his father’s name, “Abd al-Majid” was his grandfather’s name, and “al-Tikriti” refers to the town of Tikrit, where he was born. He later abolished regional surnames, possibly to “obscure the number of members of his inner circle who were relatives from Takrit.”
Authorities in China’s Hotan prefecture (which is part of the far west Xinjiang Autonomous Region) have recently banned 22 specific Muslim baby names in “an apparent bid to discourage extremism among the region’s Uyghur residents.”
In fact, Beijing has long been restricting the rights of the mostly-Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uyghurs, which make up the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang (45% of the population).
And the name-ban doesn’t just apply to babies. It also applies to young children who already have these names. Uyghurs in the region have told reporters that “authorities were forbidding children whose parents did not change their names from attending kindergarten and elementary school.”
According to Ilshat Hesen, vice president of the Uyghur American Association in Washington, D.C., the name ban is a “violation of human rights, and an example of Chinese authorities’ extreme assimilation policy for Muslim Uyghurs.”
Faith Popcorn: The story of my name is… I used to work in an advertising agency, and my boss, Gino Garlanda, could never pronounce my real name, which was Plotkin, and he would always introduce me to clients as Faith Popcorn. So, I changed it! It’s on page 100 of The Popcorn Report.
One possible case of a word changing form to have a phonestheme is the oldest of the “mor” names above, Mordred, the betrayer of King Arthur. His name actually was originally Medraut or Modred, Celtic versions of the Latin Moderatus. How did it get the “mor”? Possibly with some influence of his mother, Morgause, or of Morgan le Fay. But possibly also through some sound associations, with murder (earlier murther) and with the French morte. After all, the best-known account of the Arthurian legend is Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.
I was struck by this, since Murphy and others had first described Athena’s personality to me as “feisty.” “They earn their names,” Murphy had told me. Athena is named for the Greek goddess of wisdom, war, and strategy. She is not usually a laid-back octopus, like George had been. “Athena could pull you into the tank,” Murphy had warned. “She’s curious about what you are.”
“Those of us who have lived all our lives in Castrillo Matajudios don’t give it a second thought. But the moment you go elsewhere it sounds bad,” the mayor told AFP in an interview.
“Nowadays when people hear Castrillo Matajudios they go, ‘What a village. They kill Jews there. You have killed Jews’,” he said.
“There are some villagers, business people who travel to Israel, and they try not to show their identity card. It is a name that we know today is not very correct,” the mayor explained.
From a 2005 interview with comedian Ricky Gervais on The Daily Show:
Ricky: My highlight [of the Emmys] was a guy who won who had the best name in the world. I think he’s a director or producer or something, and his name was Bucky Gunts.
Jon: Bucky Gunts.
Ricky: And, I mean, you know — I’m sorry, this is a very intelligent, erudite show, but — I giggled for about an hour. I, honestly, I couldn’t believe my luck. Every time I thought of it, I giggled again.
(Ricky himself presented Gunts with an Emmy in 2010, and his enthusiasm over the name made “Bucky Gunts” a trending topic on Twitter.)
My great, great aunt was called Golingabeth. I can’t seem to convince my wife who is expecting to even consider this name. Graeme Fryer, Bray, Ireland
Our daughter’s name skipped more than a few generations. She’s named after the Babylonian goddess of war and sex, Ishtar. My son’s name is even more unusual, he’s called Till, a German boy’s name. German names seem much more unfashionable here than mere ancient gods and goddesses. Liz Jones, Wells, Somerset
And one more:
I bet my name has not featured in the lists at all for a good number of years. It is perhaps softer sounding than Jasper or Rupert but eminently searchable. It sometimes produces a titter in meetings where someone unknowingly uses the word bland rather something more anodyne. I have grown used to the name and it is rather distinctive so I do tend to be remembered. Though my real name is Charles Bland Tomkinson, I have always been called Bland. Bland Tomkinson
Elder always went by the name Lynn, but she adopted the stage name “Bonnie” — a shortened version of her real first name — at the suggestion of the show’s producers because there was already a cast member, a boy, with the first name Lynn, her cousin said.
Simon Powell: So what’s your name?
Panda Ross: Panda.
Panda: Panda. Like the bear.
Simon: That’s your real name?
Panda: That’s my real name.
Simon: Why were you called Panda?
Panda: My mom, well, she was kinda, you know, in jail when she had me, and her cellmate was a white lady, she was black, and so, they just kinda came up with the name.
The Candy singer also spoke about celebrity baby names and how he and wife Ayda Fields chose their daughter’s moniker.
Robbie quipped: ‘We wanted to call her Teddy but that’s bordering on celebrity nonsense and we thought what if she doesn’t go into showbiz and needs a professional name, so Theodora is her professional name and Teddy is the name she goes by at home.’
The hit-maker revealed how he had once mixed up the name of Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter, when the actress paid a visit to his house.
He remembered: ‘We were at my house in Los Angeles and the Coldplay boys had been over for a game of football and Gwyneth turned up. I was like, “Gwyneth Paltrow is in my house”, and as she walked towards me I kept saying in my head, “say something to Gwyneth Paltrow, say something to Gwyneth Paltrow” and I said, “Does Melon want some Apple?”‘
And Kailyn? Well, turns out she was a huge Hanson fan (okay, who wasn’t?), and named Isaac after the eldest brother. “Do you remember, ‘Mmm Bop?'” she pleads to the other, seemingly clueless girls. They may not, but…oh, we remember.
That’s the first time I’ve ever seen/heard someone admit they named their kid after a member of Hanson.